Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. Rescue at Sea Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience

People & Events
Captain Inman Sealby

Captain Inman Sealby Captain Inman Sealby tried to go down with his ship, but couldn't. As the surging Atlantic engulfed the sinking luxury liner "Republic," the force of the waters churned Sealby out of the ship and into the open sea, where he was rescued. Minutes before his ship sank, Sealby had declared, "While a stick of my steamer is above water I will be at my post." He had stayed true to his word.

Inman Sealby, who was forty-six as he stood upon the deck of the sinking "Republic," was born in Maryport, England, in 1862. He came to America with his family at the age of ten, living in Vineland, New Jersey, and working as a farm hand. As a teenager, Sealby became an apprentice on the sailing ships of the White Star Line. He spent the next twenty years at sea, eventually rising to the rank of captain.

Sealby's first command was in 1896 aboard the "Coptic," which sailed a San Francisco-China route. He then commanded the "Persic" and the "Suevic," England-Australia liners; the "Corinthic," an England-New Zealand liner; and the "Crotic" and the "Canopic," which sailed from Boston to the Mediterranean. Sealby had been the "Republic's" captain for only seven months when it collided with the New York-bound "Florida" on January 23, 1909.

The "Florida," a cargo ship carrying Italian emigrants, was thirty miles off course and blinded by fog when it rammed into the "Republic." Both ships were damaged, and the "Republic" began to sink. Sealby ordered all passengers transferred onto the "Florida," where they waited until a rescue ship arrived. With the exception of Mrs. Mary Lynch and W.J. Mooney, who both died in the collision, the "Republic's" passengers survived the wreck. While Sealby made headlines and became a hero in the eyes of the public, White Star Lines held a different opinion. Sealby was fired for the loss of the "Republic."

In the fall of 1909, Sealby began studying maritime law, which he practiced in San Francisco, California, until World War I. He then returned to the sea, serving as a transport captain with the Merchant Marines during the war. He later served as a member of the United States Shipping Board, until his retirement in 1930. Upon retirement, Inman Sealby returned to Vineland, New Jersey, his boyhood home, living there until his death at the age of eighty.

previous | return to people & events list | next